Thursday, June 12, 2008

Would you? Should you?

So you're sitting across from me in a nice, comfortable armchair. The therapeutic relationship is (hopefully) good, you feel comfortable with the process, you feel like you're making progress. All is going well, apparently.

Would you feel the same if you knew I had been turfed out from previous treatment facilities for a history of mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse?

Would you feel the same if you knew I had committed a past criminal offence?

Would you feel the same if you knew that offence related to spousal murder?

Would you want to know this?

Do you think, as a patient, you should know this?

Of course, I hasten to make clear, none of the above applies to me. It does, however, apply to a psychiatrist who is currently practicing in this state. It's a situation that is currently attracting a fair amount of attention and discussion.

According to reports, the psychiatrist was dismissed from four medical facilities in the 1980s due to a personal history of mental illness. In 1987, following a history of alcohol and drug abuse, he fatally shot his wife after their divorce (and there had been an apprehended violence order issued in the previous year). Released on parole in 1990, he was re-registered in 1994 and has been practicing ever since, with no problems reported.

There is currently no obligation for the psychiatrist to tell his patients of his history or for authorities to disclose this information.

The dilemma here is balancing the need for a person who has committed an offence and completed their sentence to be able to commence a new life and the right of a patient to know the background of their doctor.

Of course, this case is extreme. I have to say, as a patient, I'd want to know this. I'd want to be able to check the register for recorded offences, periods of deregistration.

At the other end of the spectrum is the practitioner who's experienced their own depression or other psychological condition but has it under control. Should they be forced to disclose this? I don't believe so.

What does the patient have a right to know? Where do you sit?


Dreaming again said...

I think ... the murder crosses the line in a big way!

There is a far cry from a therapist who can understand what I'm going through cause they've been there done that ...and one who's been so mentally ill that they've lost it and committed violence.

Psychgrad said...

Wow. I am shocked that someone who has been convicted of such a crime can be registered as a psychiatrist. I recall when one of my former classmates was convicted of looking at child pornography. He didn't want it on his record because it would prevent him from being registered.

I would like to know that the person treating me is of sound mind. But, I don't think that the psychological profile of a therapist is something a client should have access to. But, I do not think someone who has been convicted of a criminal offense should be allowed to register as a psychiatrist/psychologist.

Anonymous said...

I'm very surprised he can be licensed to work considering the spousal murder. Even though he's served his sentence, that's still a very big hurdle for me. I think I would see someone else.


Deb said...

I'd totally want to know as well.

I often check out professionals before I use their services.

When patients ask me questions, we first explore the desire behind the query. Then I usually answer the questions openly and honestly. I've written about therapist deliberate self-disclosure and feel it can be a very important tool in therapy.

What a great post, HP. And yikes, what a scary psychiatrist!

Midwife with a Knife said...

In the US some states have mandatory background searches for medical licensure, and those with serious crimes against persons or any crimes involving child abuse, elder abuse, or abuse of the mentally disabled are not able to get licenced to practice medicine at all. In some other states, it is possible that my cats could get licenses to practice medicine. Having said that, my cats are quite therapeutic, but probably not adequate trained to be a psychiatrist. ;)

Health Psych said...

Hi Dreaming Again,
You'd think so. It's not that the person shouldn't have the right to start their life over but I think you really have to take into account what they're going to do.

Hi PG,
People should at least be able to look at a register for periods of deregistration and the like so they can make up their own minds.

Hi Donna,
Same here. I wouldn't feel comfortable knowing this. I wonder what his patients think now that this has come out in the press? Possibly, having been treated by him, they might be fine with it.

Hi Deb,
Self-disclosure can absolutely be a great tool but you make an important point that it should be used with care.

Thanks for visiting and commenting.
Interesting to get a view of the differences across states. I'd take the cats anyday. Very therapeutic!

phd in yogurtry said...

I find it shocking that a psychiatrist or any licensed professional, would be allowed to renew their license with a history of violence, let alone murder. That's a criminal offense.

A history of a psych disorder is one thing. People are successfully treated for depression, bipolar, etc, everyday. But murder? ::shudder::

Good lead up to your tale,HP! I WAS thinking it was you. LOL

Health Psych said...

No, Coffeeyoghurt. Practical Man is still alive and kicking and killing 80s songs.